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July 2023


It was worth getting up at 3 in the morning. And it was a deserved win for Spain. England played well enough to make it interesting, but really, Spain looked the better team. The best description was on Twitter, where one person said, "Spain’s passing is how the US used to move the ball. Sigh." Two-time US World Cup champion Julie Foudy replied, "Very kind, but we have never moved the ball like Spain does... their grace on the ball is gorgeous to watch."

Aitana Bonmatí won the Golden Ball as the best player, but don't sleep on Teresa Abelleira, Jenni Hermoso (despite her penalty miss in the final, her 3 goals and 2 assists matched Aitana's), and 23-year-old Olga Carmona, a defender who scored two wonderful goals. England's Mary Earps won the Golden Glove as the best keeper, Japan's Hinata Miyazawa won the Golden Boot, and Spain teenager Salma Paralluelo was named the Young Player of the Tournament.

No one was more excited than Natalia Astrain, the Telemundo color commentator who is from Spain:

and so, the final

Part of the joy of a World Cup is watching a gazillion matches, and that's a joy I've missed out on because of the time difference between Australia/New Zealand and Berkeley. I've managed to see some good games and have spent a lot of time watching highlights, but that's not the same. But I got up in the wee hours to see Spain defeat Sweden, and this morning (or more accurately, tomorrow morning) I will be up at 3:00 AM to watch the final between Spain and England. I have no idea who will win, but it's always nice to have a rooting interest, and as has been the case for a long time in international soccer, after the USA falls short, I have Spain to fall back on.

Meanwhile, I was up at 7:00 this morning to watch Wrexham. The difference between the Wrexham of the past decade-plus and now is evident in the quality of the telecasts ... it's not just the professional camerawork, it's the fact that there is more than one camera at a match. The highlight post on YouTube wins this week's award for hyperbole: the video is called "BEST GAME EVER?!", when it is more on target to say "Worst Defending Ever". But it certainly was exciting.


Three points:

1: The woman who just misses opening the scoring at the beginning of the highlights (Olga Carmona) is the same woman who scores the winning goal at the end of the highlights.

2: There are only 95 seconds between Sweden's late equalizer and Spain's winner.

3: You don't need to understand Spanish to realize that the color commentator in these highlights, Natalia Astrain, is from Spain.

bye bye usa

For the first time during the tournament, I got up in the middle of the night specifically to watch a match: Sweden-USA. First, hats off to Zecira Musovic, the Swedish goalkeeper who made 11 saves in the 120 minutes that preceded penalties. Amazingly, she didn't make a single save in the penalty shootout that resulted in the Americans' elimination ... each miss by the U.S. came from poorly-kicked balls, Musovic never touched any of them. Swedish coach Peter Gerhardsson offered an interesting theory on what happened to the USA:

I don't know what [Musovic] did, what mental thing that she did to make them put them over the bar and things like that.... She was good in the game. Even if she didn't save any penalties, I think for the other team, maybe they put it outside because they know that if it's not a good penalty, maybe she takes it.

I leave it to others, more expert at soccer analysis, to explain what went wrong for the Americans. It's ironic that the U.S. keeper, Alyssa Naeher, had the best performance of the goalies on the penalties. She saved two, and even stepped to take one for her team, which she made.

The U.S. played their best game of the Cup, and they leave having not lost any matches in regular time. After beating Vietnam 3-0 to start, they had three straight draws, not scoring in either of the last two matches. It's kinda hard to win if you don't score.

Why didn't they score? I have my opinions, but they're not that informed ... I'm just a guy who watches matches. To my eye, the players didn't seem to fit comfortably into the scheme provided by coach Vlatko Andonovski. Alex Morgan is the best example on the offense ... I don't think she played that badly, she was offside a bit too often, but she had her chances, and against Sweden, again you tip your cap to Musovic. Morgan, like a lot of the players, seemed to tire ... she's 34 years old, she played 342 minutes over 4 games. If I take one memory away from the U.S. in this World Cup, it's that Andonovski seemed to forget he was allowed to make substitutions. He made the allowed five subs against Vietnam, then made only one sub against the Netherlands, bringing on Rose Lavelle at the half. He again made all 5 subs against Portugal, but two came in the 84th minute, and two more came in added time. Finally, against Sweden, he subbed in Lynn Williams in the 66th minute, then nothing until the extra time, when he took off Morgan for Megan Rapinoe in the 99th minute. He made no other subs in the 120-minute match, other than to add two good penalty takers in the 120th minute.

Is any of this relevant to why they couldn't score? You got me. The easier explanation is probably the best: the rest of the world has caught up with the USA in women's soccer.

Here is the centimeter that sent Sweden through:

round of 16

In the first of the rare posts I've made about this World Cup, I only mentioned one player: Sam Kerr of Australia. I quoted Michael Cox:

Everything is set up for Sam Kerr to have a tournament incomparable with anything else any women’s footballer has experienced. The obvious poster girl for a tournament played in her home nation, Kerr can reasonably claim to be the most dangerous striker in the game.

Australia won 2 of their 3 group stage matches to advance (co-hosts New Zealand were not as fortunate ... they are 3-and-out). They won their group, thus winning the opportunity to play Denmark in the next round. Sadly, Sam Kerr was injured just before the tournament started ... she has yet to play (curse of the blog, I guess).

That's the bad news. The good news is that Australia won their group anyway, and rumors are Kerr will be available to play against Denmark.

Meanwhile, Brazil was eliminated in the group stage, meaning Marta has played her last game in a World Cup. Marta is the GOAT in women's soccer. She finishes her international career with 115 goals for Brazil. She scored 17 goals in World Cups, a record. I've posted this many times in many places over the years ... this all-time Marta World Cup goal:

And there's the USA. They were unbeaten during group play, yet everyone agrees they were subpar, and they are likely to be underdogs against Sweden in the next round.